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Diane L. Barnes

Hailing from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, James Buchanan was the son of the storekeeper James Buchanan and Elizabeth Speer. Following a local school education, Buchanan read law and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1812. Buchanan never married, instead concentrating his energies on his political career. He began in the Pennsylvania state legislature, serving a single term from 1814 to 1816, and was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served five terms starting in 1821. Buchanan began his political career as a moderate Federalist, but by the early 1830s he was an ardent supporter of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, and the newly forming Democratic Party. Jackson rewarded his loyalty by appointing him as minister to Russia in 1832. Upon his return to the United States in 1833 Buchanan was appointed by the Pennsylvania legislature to fill the U S Senate seat ...


Sean Patrick Adams

Stephen Grover Cleveland came of age in western New York after the premature death of his father, a Presbyterian minister. He became involved in the Democratic Party at an early age and, after becoming a lawyer in 1859, served in a number of local offices in Buffalo. Having quickly developed a reputation as a reformer and party official willing to take on corruption in public affairs, Cleveland successfully campaigned to become mayor of Buffalo in 1881. Just two years later he entered the statewide spotlight and was elected governor of New York. In that position Cleveland continued his crusade for political reform. His attempt to clean up New York City's municipal government garnered the ire of the powerful and corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, but Cleveland survived attacks on both his policies and character to emerge as one of the leading reformers of the Gilded Age.

In 1884 ...


Diane L. Barnes

James Abram Garfield was born in a log cabin in Orange Township in northern Ohio's Western Reserve to the farmers Abram Garfield and Eliza Ballou. Following Abram Garfield's death in 1833 the family struggled in poverty, but James managed to gain an education, eventually succeeding as an educator and in politics.

At eighteen Garfield converted and began a lifelong following of the Disciples of Christ. He attended the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (Hiram College), then Williams College in Massachusetts, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1856. Garfield returned to Hiram as an educator, teaching ancient languages and serving as a lay minister, then in 1857 was appointed as president of the college. In 1858 he married Lucretia Rudolph with whom he had five sons and two daughters A strong personality and a clear oratory style led Garfield into politics beginning with his election to the Ohio senate ...


Barton A. Myers

Born Hiram Ulysses Grant in Point Pleasant, Ohio, the future general and eighteenth president of the United States had an unimposing beginning. Grant was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1839, where his congressman had mistakenly reported his name as Ulysses Simpson Grant, his mother's maiden name being Simpson. Four years later Grant graduated twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine and accepted a commission as a brevet second lieutenant. The outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846 provided Grant with the opportunity to serve under Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. In 1854 Grant resigned his commission and returned to civilian life After trying his hand at a series of professions that included farming and real estate he settled into a position as a clerk at his family s store in Galena Illinois Grant remained at the business until the Civil War brought ...


Thomas Adams Upchurch

Born on the southern Ohio frontier near Cincinnati, Benjamin Harrison came from one of the most respected families in American political history. His great-grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence and served as governor of Virginia, his grandfather was the nation's ninth president, and his father represented Ohio in Congress. After graduating in 1852 from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Harrison studied law in Cincinnati and then moved to Indianapolis, where he set up a legal practice and made his permanent home. When the Civil War erupted, Harrison received a commission as a lieutenant, quickly progressing to the rank of brigadier general. He campaigned on behalf of Abraham Lincoln in 1864, ran unsuccessfully for governor of Indiana in 1876, and served in the U.S. Senate from 1881 until 1887. In 1888 he accepted the Republican nomination for president.

Although not an abolitionist per se throughout his life ...


Diane L. Barnes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio, two months after his father's death. Educated at Kenyon College and Harvard Law School, Hayes became a practicing attorney in Fremont (Lower Sandusky), Ohio, but in the early 1850s moved his law office to Cincinnati, where he gained a reputation as an able defense attorney. In 1852 he married Lucy Ware Webb, with whom he had eight children, although three did not survive to adulthood.

During the Civil War, Hayes began his military career with a political appointment as a major in the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry and soon rose to regimental colonel. By the time he resigned his commission at the end of the war, he had attained the rank of major general. While still on active military duty in 1864, Hayes was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1866 Not long ...


Wesley Borucki

nineteenth president of the United States (1877–1881), who ended Reconstruction. Rutherford Birchard Hayes's father, Rutherford, died two months before his birth in Delaware, Ohio, and his mother, Sophia, raised him on the family farm with the help of her brother Sardis Birchard. Hayes attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, graduating as valedictorian in 1842. He studied law at Harvard and began his practice in Fremont, Ohio, in 1845. Hayes moved in 1849 to Cincinnati, where he joined the Republican Party in the 1850s, attracted by its antislavery principles.

Hayes rose to the rank of major general during the Civil War. His service was so distinguished that he won election to Congress in 1864 without campaigning. He was elected governor of Ohio an unprecedented three times from 1867 to 1875 and received the Republican presidential nomination in 1876.

The Democratic governor Samuel Tilden ...


Christopher Bates

Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. His parents, Mary and Jacob, were barely literate and scratched out a living by working for a local inn. With Jacob Johnson's death in 1812, the family's financial situation became dire, and Mary struggled to support Andrew and his brother, William, before finally binding young Andrew in the apprenticeship of a tailor at the age of thirteen.

Johnson spent several years learning his trade before leaving Raleigh for Greeneville, Tennessee. There he established his own tailoring shop and also met Eliza McCardle, whom he married in 1827 Eliza took responsibility for her husband s education teaching him arithmetic and reading to him The future president eager to put his newfound knowledge to use and hone his natural rhetorical skills made his shop into an informal gathering place for political discussion Enthralled and energized by these exchanges Johnson sought ...


Heather Marie Stur

the thirty-sixth president of the United States, coming into office in November 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A Democrat, Lyndon Baines Johnson was born and raised in rural Texas, and his experiences growing up shaped both his personality and his political outlook. He earned a teaching degree and worked as a teacher before embarking on a long political career, which included many terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in addition to the vice presidency and the presidency. Throughout his life Johnson was known for his persuasive skills and his ability to build coalitions and make strategic political friends. Although he was committed to addressing domestic problems, authorizing several pieces of civil rights legislation and making what he called the War on Poverty the focus of his domestic policy, he often is associated primarily with the escalation of the Vietnam War.

Johnson was born ...


Scott A. Sandage

Abraham Lincoln is an ambiguous figure in history and literature, with much disagreement centered on his beliefs and actions regarding African Americans. Lincoln hated slavery but equivocated in public statements about racial equality. He considered his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation the most historic act of his presidency, but many critics interpret the order freeing Southern slaves during the Civil War as a military measure, not a humanitarian one. In a famous 1862 letter to the editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln explained that his “official duty” in the war was to “save the Union” but added that this stance signaled “no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.” Near the war's end, Lincoln vetoed a congressional bill to codify emancipation and insisted instead that the permanent end of slavery be written into the Constitution as the Thirteenth Amendment.

Assassination elevated Lincoln to national martyrdom but ...


For information on

African Americans close to Lincoln: See Keckley.

African American influences on Lincoln: See Civil War, American; Douglass; Dred Scott v. Sandford; Garnet; Race and the American Presidency; Slavery and Law in North America; Truth;

Lincoln s attitudes toward blacks ...


Paul Finkelman and Vickey Kalambakal

Abraham Lincoln, self-made and self-educated, remains one of America's best-loved presidents. He rose from obscurity and poverty through his own efforts to become president. His election in 1860 as the first president dedicated to ending the spread of slavery to new states led to the secession of seven slave states. His refusal to allow the Union to fall apart led to civil war and to the secession of four more states. During the war Lincoln presided over a revolution in American race relations that ended slavery; allowed for black political and military participation in the affairs of the nation; and, after his assassination, resulted in blacks' gaining full rights as American citizens.


Randall Kennedy

lawyer, writer, U.S. Senator, and President of the United States, was born Barack Hussein Obama Jr. in Honolulu, Hawaii, the only child of Barack Obama, a government official in Kenya, and Stanley Anne Dunham, an educator. His mother was a white American originally from Kansas, and his father was a black Kenyan. The couple met while studying at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and separated when their son was two years old. Obama Sr. left Hawaii to study at Harvard University and later returned to Africa to work as an economic planner for the Kenyan government. After the couple divorced, Anne Dunham married Lolo Soertoro, an Indonesian businessman, with whom she had a daughter, Maya.

Hawaii was the primary site of Barack s childhood and adolescence although from the age of six to ten he lived in Jakarta Indonesia in the ...


Steven J. Niven

author, U.S. senator, and first African American president. Born Barack Hussein Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii, he was the only son of Barack Obama Sr., a native of Kenya, and Ann Dunham, a white Kansan, who met and married while they were both students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Obama Sr. grew up herding goats with his father, who was a domestic servant for British colonial officials in the small Kenyan village of Nyangoma-Kogelo. Obama Sr. arrived in Hawaii in 1959 as part of a program initiated by the Kenyan nationalist politician Tom Mboya to educate promising young African students in the United States. Mboya's program aimed to prepare an African-born elite for government service after the end of British colonial rule, and he secured scholarship funds from a number of African Americans active in the civil rights movement, including Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier ...


Sean R. Busick

Franklin Pierce was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, to Benjamin and Anna Kendrick Pierce; his father, Benjamin, fought in the American Revolution and later served as the governor of New Hampshire. Before entering politics, Pierce attended Bowdoin College, then studied law. In 1834 he married Jane Means Appleton. Two months before taking office as president in 1852, Pierce, with his wife, would witness the death of their eleven-year-old son in a train accident; their other two children also died in childhood.

Pierce entered politics early in life. In 1829, at the age of twenty-four, he was elected to the New Hampshire state legislature, serving as the speaker of the house in 1832 and 1833. In 1833 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served there until 1837, when he took a seat in the Senate. In 1842 Pierce resigned ...


Rolando Avila

James Knox Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. His father, Samuel Polk, was a prosperous farmer who owned thousands of acres of land and about fifty slaves in Tennessee. His mother, Jane Knox Polk, was a devout Presbyterian who instilled Calvinist virtues of hard work and self-discipline in her son. The eldest of ten children, Polk was a sickly child. At the age of seventeen he underwent a very dangerous and painful operation in order to have stones removed from his gallbladder.

After graduating with honors from the University of North Carolina in 1818, Polk studied law, passed the bar exam, and began his political career. He would serve as a member of the Tennessee House of Representative (1823–1825), a member of the U. S. House of Representatives (1825–1839), the Speaker of the House (1835–1839 and the governor of Tennessee ...


Michael C. Miller

John Tyler was born in Charles City County, Virginia, to John Tyler, a lawyer and politician, and Mary Armistead, who died when Tyler was seven. After graduating from William and Mary College in 1807, he studied law under his father, during which time he cemented his beliefs in states' rights and a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In 1811 Tyler began his political career as a delegate to the Virginia House of Delegates. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1816, running on a states' rights platform, but resigned his seat a few years later. He returned to the Virginia House in 1822, became governor in 1825, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1827. He resigned his Senate seat in 1836.

In 1840 Tyler was elected vice president on the Whig Party ticket. When President William Henry ...